The Tamil Nadu government does not seem to have learnt from its mistakes, say a group of activists who cycled from Salem to Chennai to highlight the increasing encroachments on water bodies in the state. The campaigners say that they have not been getting any response from the government officials through the yatra.
Twenty people from Salem participated in a 400-km cycle rally and reached Chennai on Wednesday, to highlight one common problem in Tamil Nadu- encroachments of water bodies.
Addressing the media at the Chennai Press Club on Wednesday, Piyush Manush from Salem Citizen’s Forum said, “Everyone has said that one of the main reasons for floods were encroachments. But not even one inch of encroached land has been reclaimed after the floods by the government.”
Talking about the issues that they found in different districts, he said, “In Tirupattur, the neglect of water bodies was a big problem. In Ambur, the industrial pollution was a big issue and as we came to Vellore, encroachments were a problem. And then starts the deluge of Seemai Karuvelam (Prosopis juliflora), the poisonous tree is there everywhere.”
He added, “In many places, there are cementing of canals and rivers which has taken a huge toll on the water bodies. Waste dumping is a very regular thing everywhere like wherever there is a pit, there is waste dumping.”
Many shut canals are also a problem. “All canals are shut down. When highways and roads are built very small pipe is given,” said Piyush.
They visited the Kancheepuram, Dharampuri and Vellore collectorate and gave representation asking the officials to start working on the encroachments. But they have not got any response at all. They have just been given an acknowledgement.
Asked about the problems faced while cycling for such a long stretch, he said, “It was a very pleasant journey in terms of response of people and hospitality but the problem has been the zero response from the state. We have gone to the collector’s office. The state has taken a very deaf and dumb stand they are acting as if they are not seeing anything, hearing anything or responding anything.”
Talking about what the government should start doing, Piyush said, “The government needs to act on common sense. Maari Amma has given a very clear verdict- you clear my home or I will enter your homes.”
Maari Amma Utharavu campaign began from Salem on February 2, 2016. Maari Amma Utharavu is a form of worship of ‘Rain’ as ‘Maari ’.
Earlier, the Salem Citizen’s Forum had highlighted four encroachments in the district but the collector did not take any action against it. After cycling around the Collector’s office for six days, the forum decided to begin a campaign against encroachments in the state.
From Salem, the campaign reached Dharamapuri. There the Dharmapuri People’s Forum also joined the campaign. Then it covered Vellore, Arcot, Kancheepuram, Mookaneri, Sriperambadur and reached Chennai on Wednesday.
The campaign has received a lot of support from schools and colleges. So, the campaign is now being continued till Kanyakumari.